Study: Data speed is more critical than voice coverage for smartphone users

A new Harris Interactive study commissioned by Skyfire Labs found that after price, the biggest reason smartphone owners switched operators was to get better data coverage and download speeds. In fact, 40 percent said they switched operators in the past year to get better data speed and coverage compared with 26 percent who said they switched to get better voice coverage.

The study, which queried more than 900 U.S. smartphone users and more than 1,000 British smartphone users, also found that more than half (57 percent) of U.S. smartphone owners watched video in the past month and 86 percent said that when their mobile connection is poor, they care more about seeing standard definition video rather than high definition video with slow starts, stuttering and re-buffering.

Not surprisingly, the study found that 76 percent of smartphone users in the age group of 18-34 watched video in the past month as compared with 58 percent of those in the 35-44 age group. Only 52 percent of those 45-54 watched video and just 24 percent of those 55 and older watched video in the past month.

Households with an income of less than $35,000 also were more likely to have watched video on their smartphones (66 percent) compared with those smartphone users with household incomes of more than $75,000 (just 54 percent). This stat is telling because video consumption is considered a major factor in "bill shock" and those with less income would likely be charged overage fees if they consumed more data than their wireless plan allows.   

Indeed mobile video consumption is on the rise. According to Cisco's 2012 Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, by 2016 video is expected to make up 71 percent of all mobile data traffic.

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